We’ve been holding on, patiently waiting for new music from Alabama Shakes for three years and finally the new album is here to shake things up! Their debut album Boys & Girls won them Grammys such as Best New Artist, which if you haven’t listened to it, please do yourself a favor and jam it on a sunny day.
Alabama Shakes has matured over the years and the album Sound & Color reflects such growth in their sound. Boys & Girls has an innocent touch, with flirty guitar strumming and energetic rhythm, it’s more funky and playful. Sound & Color has more depth through it’s deeper blues, lyrical introspection and overall burning passion. Either way, Alabama Shakes’ soulful blues-rock sound fills one’s heart with lead singer Brittany Howard’s dynamic voice, reaching high and bringing back down heavenly music.
The first track “Sound & Color” is a soft introduction to the album as you hear tapping of a xylophone until Brittany lightly stirs us with her first appearance as she sings the words “love is sound & color”. From the get-go, this album exuded a much deeper message, so I mentally prepared myself. “Don’t Wanna Fight” kicks in next with powerful guitar plucking that you can’t help but sway your hips to and raw emotion is felt from Brittany’s crooning about her exhaustion of fighting with a lover. Drums beat into “Dunes” as Brittany sings that she’s losing it from being overwhelmed by the desert, a metaphor for her problems probably. The album continues this calmer, blues sound with “Future People” but with an extrospective message of hope for the future generation.
We then enter the heart-wrenching ballad, “Gimme All Your Love”, that makes you ache for love, as the guitar tries to hold back from falling apart as it narrates this emotion and expertly drops into the chorus with intensity as much as it contains it until the song picks up with a guitar solo. This is the second single from the album, performed on SNL, and is by far the most powerful when it comes to bearing one’s soul. The acoustic guitar calms things back down with “This Feeling”, a song made perfectly for lounging in the sun to appreciate momentarily that “it feels so nice to know I’m gonna be alright.”
A touch of soul is heard in “Guess Who” with soft, guitar strumming to match Brittany’s softer singing as she questions why do things have to be complicated, she just wants a piece of mind. “The Greatest” is the first in the album to have a much heavier garage rock merged with a slight punk touch that just pumps you up, here you have to stomp your feet. “Shoegaze” returns us to a calmer yet still magnifying sound, slightly psychedelic when it comes to the guitar strumming but overall it continues that energy seen throughout the album. “Miss You” brought back that old blues feel that women such as Etta James sang so well. The song starts out ever so sweetly as Brittany speaks out to her love who is leaving, probably due to a break up.In the song, she suddenly explodes into a declaration of “maybe I’m yours!” once she realizes she will probably miss him. We’ve all been there, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
We near the end with the second to last song “Gemini” with a heavier atmosphere as drums slowly pound along with Brittany’s deeper singing, bass guitar comes in to help weigh down the electric guitar’s dragging of this heavy feeling carried by the band. I melted into this song, as I listened to every instruments description of the weight on their shoulders. “Over My Head” wraps up the album, resonating the album’s heart aching message of the trials of love and life, it says its goodbye as Brittany says “loving so deeply I’m in over my head”.
A beautiful love letter to love itself, this album shows maturity as one would mature in a relationship–you realize love and life is not perfect or simple, but it sure is wonderful. Compared to the first album, it is deeper, fired up with passion and raw emotion that moves your soul. At times, it explores frustration and sadness of why things just can’t be easy but at other times it lifts you up reminding that life wouldn’t be as exciting if it was all rainbows and unicorns. It is what makes you feel alive and this album does a great job of replicating that. We started with love understood by Boys & Girls but have added depth and shape to love with Sound & Color.
By Hazel Ramos